What a fantastic group of images to get to experience as the curator of this Your Shot assignment, The Moment.
Was it tough to select the final group of images to best illustrate this theme? Yes, it was. The caliber of work, in general, was very high. So how does one take this large body of photographs and choose the "best” images? It was difficult for sure.
First, during this process, I had to constantly remind myself of the assignment: The Moment. Many fine photos were shared in the group, and many of those didn’t exactly fit that filter. Some were about place, some were about character, others were about landscape. So using the criteria that this assignment was about “moment” helped to give clarity and direction to the process.
Moments can be large, loud, and in your face. They can also be soft, gentle, and intimate. Some of the large and explosive moments made it into the final selection, as did some of the quiet and personal moments. It really came down to the power of the image.
Several things attracted me to the final images. One of the most important factors for me was that the image had to be unique. There's an old saying that everything has been photographed, so what I looked for were images that surprised me, that left me in awe of that particular photo. The image also had to be complete, meaning that a powerful moment couldn't be attained in a frame that was lacking in compositional integrity and structure. Photographers are often so entranced by the great energy of the moment that we forget to think about the composition of the image—what's on the edges of the frame. I suggest that you think of your camera's viewfinder as your "canvas." Like a painter, the photographer is responsible for every square inch of the viewfinder. Also, when the power of a moment starts to build, we often tend to automatically center the image so as not to lose the split second of the moment. When we center something, it usually creates a more boring image. We like asymmetry. Photographs that incorporated composition along with the moment became the unifying thread in the final selection.
What I love about photography is how every situation presents a unique and one-of-a-kind opportunity: This panorama of life passing before us is never repeated—it’s always special. Approaching a photo opportunity with the idea that there is a best photo to be made, maybe not the best picture ever made, but best for that situation, enhances the possibility of a strong photo.
We communicate primarily through images; this is how we recall the moments of our lives. As visual creatures, we process memory in images, and as the most sophisticated generation ever in terms of visuals, our need for strong photos has never been greater. Bombarded on a daily basis with visually strong ads, movies, and images, we dismiss poor imagery. Every second tens of thousands of snapshots are posted on social media sites, but very few real photographs are shared. So I think the job of the photographer is to create powerful and engaging photographs that will pull viewers into the world of an image-maker.
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jay Dickman has shot more than 25 assignments for National Geographic and has visited every continent as an expert and photo instructor on National Geographic Expeditions, recently leading Trekking With the Maasai. He has taught at Sante Fe Workshops and Maine Media Workshops, among others. With his ...